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It's sorry business as usual

The new-look Lightning pulled a same ol', same ol' Wednesday.

With trade deadline-day acquisitions Jeff Norton from Edmonton and Jamie Huscroft from Calgary in the lineup, Tampa Bay fell 3-1 to the Oilers in front of 16,089 at Edmonton Coliseum.

Kelly Buchberger's early third-period goal was the difference, giving the Oilers a one-goal lead that the offense-starved Lightning could not overcome.

Buchberger scored off a drop pass from Todd Marchant, beating apparently screened Tampa Bay goalie Rick Tabaracci to the glove side less than four minutes into the final period.

Martin Czerkawski added an insurance goal with just more than six minutes to go, beating Tabaracci with an odd-angle wrister after the Lightning goalie made a remarkable save on Mike Grier.

That held up to mark the third straight loss and sixth in seven games for the Lightning, which is on the road for the first time after a disappointing six-game homestand.

"Once again, it was a case, from the forwards to the defense, of everyone making just a little mistake here and another mistake there," Lightning center Chris Gratton said. "And it cost us."

And it couldn't have come at a worse time, considering that Montreal and Washington _ two of the five teams battling Tampa Bay for the last two Eastern Conference playoff spots _ gained ground.

The Canadiens got two points for their 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers and the Capitals one for their 2-2 tie with New Jersey, leaving the Lightning three points behind Washington and Hartford for the eighth and final position.

"Time's running out," defenseman Bill Houlder said. "We've got to click."

Edmonton, meanwhile, played without its take in the Norton deal, young defenseman Drew Bannister. Still nursing a shoulder injured Saturday during Tampa Bay's loss to Vancouver, Bannister was examined by Oilers doctors Wednesday. They diagnosed a "burner," an injury common to football players in which the damaged nerves cause numbing down an arm.

Bannister is out indefinitely, prompting Edmonton media members to ask Oilers general manager Glen Sather whether he wanted to try to talk Lightning GM Phil Esposito into revoking the deal. With the trade deadline passed and no conditions attached to the trade, that is impossible.

As for Norton, most widely known for his power-play work, he moved the puck well against his former teammates but looked out of place when paired to kill penalties with Rudy Poeschek.

And what do you know, the Oilers took advantage with those two on the ice during their first five-on-four. Grier situated himself up in the slot. Poeschek, who appeared tied up with a man of his own, could not get over to Grier in time. Norton, who had no one, did make a move to move him out. Doug Weight then passed across to Dan McGillis, who one-timed a shot from the right point that Grier deflected past Tabaracci.

Edmonton found itself with yet another power play less than a minute later, but this time Tampa Bay got a short-handed goal from Rob Zamuner.

Zamuner got the puck from Mikael Andersson, who stripped it away from Weight and beat Curtis Joseph through the pads from just outside the right faceoff circle. It was the 14th goal of the season for Zamuner, his second short-handed.

The Lightning had one chance after another in the middle period, including three power plays with Norton playing the point opposite Roman Hamrlik on the top unit.

Zamuner had three shots in a row early in the period, including one that hit the post. On the same whistle, Paul Ysebaert took a low shot that required a skate save by Joseph. Gratton hit the crossbar with the rebound of a Shawn Burr shot. Daymond Langkow was denied on a backhander. John Cullen shot a turnover right at Joseph. Hamrlik got off a great power-play shot that was turned away. And in the final minute, Jason Wiemer and Igor Ulanov missed the net with clear shots at the Oilers goalie.

"We've just got to bear down and hit the net," Burr said. "It's not just one guy."

But just as in a 3-1 loss to Toronto on Sunday night, when Felix Potvin stopped virtually everything the Lightning fired at him, Joseph was giving up precious little and Tampa Bay's failure to take advantage of its scoring opportunities proved costly.

On the other end, things were relatively quiet. Edmonton took just 13 shots during the first two periods on Tabaracci, who got the start while Daren Puppa dressed as his backup.